History and GIS Annotations

Lunen, Alexander and Travis, Charles. History and GIS : Epistemologies, Considerations and Reflections. New York: Springer, 2013.

Chapter 2: Immobile History: An Interview with Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie

This chapter of the History and GIS is the transcript of Le Roy Ladurie and Lunen’s interview regarding GIS and history. In this interview, Le Roy Ladurie outlines his career in a changing field of history as he continually seems to be at the forefront of historical methods and study. Ladurie oversaw computational history and was involved on a great deal of quantitative projects. Ladurie also served as a director of the National Library of France where he worked in the digitization of the library’s catalog. The most important things to take away from this interview, in my opinion, are the discussions regarding collaboration. Lunen consistently asks about collaborative projects and the process used to create them. One great example regarding this is the process of the cartographic theme maps mentioned at the beginning of the interview. Ladurie conducted archival research and collected data, graduate students then created useful tables and other figures using this data, and then the data was passed onto the map maker who took his own approach to the creation of the thematic maps based off these census records and other primary sources. Ladurie also discusses his book Montaillou, a best selling microhistory on a town of the same name in France. Despite it being a microhistory, Ladurie used advanced quantitative methods to analyze the meticulous record left by the townspeople during the medieval ages.

Ch. 6 “Thou Shalt Make No Graven Maps!”:An Interview with Gunnar Olsson

In this chapter of History and GIS, Lunen interviews Gunnar Olsson, a human geographer from Sweden.In this chapter, Olsson and Lunen discuss the problems and potential of mapping, and particularly Olsson’s invisible maps idea. The potential for mapping shows itself when they discuss the historian’s ability to create maps for their study, rather than using someone else’s. Olsson and Lunen also discuss the theory behind translating narrative into figures and representations, and how abstract ideas can be represented in mapping. From what i understood of this, I was relating it to the problems of mapping a vague or ambiguous place, people or event and how historians must handle this.

Kelly Knowles, Anne. Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands: ESRI Press, 2008.

Ch 1: GIS and History by Anne Kelly Knowles

In this chapter, Knowles introduces the topic of GIS. She begins by defining GIS, how it had grown as a field, and the core concepts of that field. The concepts that drive the field of historical GIS include: geographic questions driving a significant part of the inquiry, geographic information comprises the bulk of the evidence, this evidence is held in a single or multiple databases for further inquiry, and the arguments of the study are presented in map, table, chart or other visualizations. Knowles also discusses the potential complications and innovations GIS presents to historians. Among these complications are the need for quantitative sources, or the transferal of qualitative sources to quantitative. The sources used must contain some field  in which the source can be cataloged in reference to other sources. Knowles also discusses the vagueness of time and space. To create a study, both of these constantly changing aspects must be addressed in a concrete way. THings such as communities, ideological influences, or the effects of events on populations are something that is difficult to map and portray on an image. Knowles also discusses the need for technical expertise in historical GIS. Not only should the author be able to efficiently use the tool, but in many cases the author must make the tool they need. This includes making the database, maps, or visualizations. This chapter is also a jumping off point for the rest of the book, as the innovations discussed will be case studies present in later chapters.

Ch 4: Scaling the Dust Bowl by Geoff Cunfer

This chapter is presented in Placing History as a sort of proof of concept that shows how GIS can contribute to a historiographical argument, and not only contribute, but upset the historiography. Cunfer engages, adds, and eventually upsets the traditional historiographical argument of Donald Worster’s causes of the Dust Bowl. Worster states that capitalistic over development and intense plowing led to the weakening of topsoil and the eventual environmental events of the Dust Bowl. While Cunfer agrees with this interpretation, he aims to take it a step further and uncover the historical presence of dust storms in the Midwest and that a period of drought also heavily influenced the Dust Bowl situation. He uses new sources to analyze the Dust Bowl, these included qualitative sources such a newspapers, diaries, and correspondences. These qualitative sources are used in a quantitative way by Cunfer’s mapping of mentioning and reporting of dust storms to show that these are a natural occurrence and cycle of the Great Plains, and that Worster’s causes were important, but really only intensified the situation.

Ch 8: New Windows on the Puetinger Map of the Roman World

In this chapter another project is discussed as a case study to represent the usefulness and new approaches GIS can present to history. This project deconstructs the Puetinger Map, and Ancient Roman depiction of their world, and attempts to assign real places and features to the map. In this project, the team deconstructs the map into two base layers, the human landmarks and the natural landmarks. Human landmarks consist of towns, roads, bridges and the like while natural landmarks are mountains, rivers, and other natural formations that are useful in navigating. Their study has immense application in the archaeological world due to its focus. With the authors finding out how accurate the map was, previously unknown Roman locations can be discovered in the vicinity of accurate landmarks, natural ones in most cases. Their study acts as a proof of concept for the further geo-rectifying of ancient Roman and Greek maps and the discovery of archaeological sites.

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